HOUSTON (AP)J’Wan Roberts had a career-high 26 points and seven rebounds, Marcus Sasser scored 22 points and No. 1 Houston clinched at least a share of the American Athletic Conference regular season championship with an 89-59 win over Tulane on Wednesday night.
Houston (26-2, 14-1) has won eight straight games.
Houston coach Kelvin Sampson said the consistency in winning the title four out of five seasons is what he’s most proud of.
”It’s hard for me to talk about that,” Sampson said. ”I don’t know where to start, what to say. I just think staying humble. I do the best I can to coach these kids, put them in the best position to win and for them to be successful. I’ve got a great staff. We all work in conjunction with each other. We’ve been winning around here for a long time.”
Roberts has scored at least 20 points in consecutive games, and Sasser, who also had five rebounds and six assists, has scored at least 20 points in four straight and nine overall this season.
”I still feel like we haven’t reached our ceiling,” Sasser said. ”That’s always a positive heading into March. We want to be playing our best basketball in March.”
Tramon Mark added 13 points, and Jamal Shead had 10 points and six assists. Houston outrebounded Tulane 46-27, with Jarace Walker leading the way with a career-high 13 rebounds.
”Our effort is getting better,” Shead said. ”A lot of people are playing a lot harder for a longer amount of time. That’s just one thing that we’ve been harping on: playing harder and playing a full 40 minutes.”
The Cougars shot 47%, including 10 of 32 on 3-pointers.
Jalen Cook scored 23 points for his seventh straight game with at least 20 points for Tulane (17-8, 10-4), which saw its five-game winning streak snapped. Jaylen Forbes added 14 points.
”We just ran into a buzzsaw,” Tulane coach Ron Hunter said. ”They played well. They wanted to win the league. They want that No. 1 seed in the tournament. That’s how they played. We’ve been playing good basketball, but it’s more what they did. (Sampson) has this team playing really well right now.”
The Green Wave shot 38%, including 7 of 22 on 3-pointers.
”Nothing we did today was good,” Hunter said. ”They played like the best team in the country today, so they won.”
Houston used a 22-5 run over an eight-minute stretch of the first half to open up a 35-17 lead ending with a 3-pointer by Sasser with five minutes remaining in the half.
Tulane: The Green Wave’s last win over a ranked opponent came on Dec. 22, 1999, when Tulane defeated No. 25 North Carolina State 73-62. . Tulane dropped to 1-3 in Quad 1 games. . The Green Wave started 3 for 3 from the field then finished the first half 5 of 25.
Houston: The Cougars have won 11 straight over Tulane. … The Cougars had a season-high 16 steals. . Houston forced 19 turnovers, which they converted into 22 points. . The Cougars held a 42-20 advantage in points in the paint and dished out 22 assists on 31 field goals.
”Our team is getting better at certain things,” Sampson said of Houston’s defense. ”We’re getting better at our point of attack defense, loading to the ball, our stunts, all the things that we emphasize and teach. We just continue to get better.”
Tulane: Hosts Wichita State on Sunday.
Houston: Travels to East Carolina on Saturday night.
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